Maybe There is Such a Thing as Karmic Justice

By  |  Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 4:32 pm

PinocchioThe U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that security software maker Kaspersky Labs had the right to label adware from Zango as malware and help PC users identify it and remove it. The ruling ends a legal battle that had been going on since 2007–part of a campaign by Zango to get off of security software’s enemies lists through lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters.

For Zango, Kaspersky’s victory is moot–the adware company closed its doors earlier this year. For consumers, it’s good news: It’s a legal precedent that supports the notion that PC users have have the right to control what’s on their computers, and to use software that assists them in doing so.

Zango’s founders would and did argue that there was nothing mal about their wares. But even if Zango had cleaned up its act before it folded, the company was the result of the merger of 180Solutions and Hotbar, two companies whose applications wound up on a lot of PCs without their owners’ knowledge or permission earlier this decade. Including mine. Zango execs kept acknowledging past sins, blaming third parties such as rogue affiliates, and bragging about the company’s current policies, but when I tried Zango after its launch it failed to live up to its allegedly consumer-friendly policies on multiple fronts. And anti-adware crusader Ben Edelman played hectoring Jiminy Cricket to Zango’s Pinocchio for years, documenting what he said were questionable tactics even after the company had supposedly decided to be good.

In this revealing blog post, Zango CTO Ken Smith acknowledges that Zango’s bad rep helped seal the company’s fate. I hope other companies consider it a cautionary tale: Consumers (and large advertisers) have memories like elephants, and you simply can’t take actions that make their lives miserable, then proclaim that you’ve changed your ways and expect the world to welcome you as a solid citizen.

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